Commission Approves Madison’s School Zone Expansion

Warsaw Traffic Commission members (L to R) Dr. David Robertson, Warsaw Community Schools, and Dustin Dillon, Warsaw Street Department, listen to discussion Wednesday about the school zone around Madison Elementary School. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

Madison Elementary’s school zone will stretch to just west of the roundabout on CR 300N after the Warsaw Traffic Safety Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved its expansion.

The school zone expansion has been discussed by the Commission for a couple months.

Warsaw Community Schools Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Dr. David Robertson told the Commission on Wednesday, “We shared earlier that we’re constantly evaluating routes to schools for students and we are continuing to be in the process of investigating potentially adding some walk areas to the Madison Elementary School zone, due in large part because of the incredible infrastructure the city’s worked to put in.”

He said WCS has not made any final decisions on what that would look like if they choose to add some walk areas, but “to even be able to consider it, we do feel like we do need to extend the school zone east on 300 North.”

The area WCS would be looking at for a potential walk area would be the Tippe River Downs neighborhood, which is south of CR 300N. Robertson said the school would love to see the school zone extended to just east of the roundabout and have that lower speed limit as people came into the roundabout all the way up to Madison, which is at 1436 W. CR 300N.

Warsaw Police Department Capt. Joel Beam reminded the Commission that at their previous meeting there was some discussion about how far a school zone could be extended. He said he reached out to Laura Slusher, a traffic safety engineer at Purdue University who works for LTAP (Local Technical Assistance Program), and asked her if there was a specific distance for school zones. Slusher told him, “It has to be declared in the immediate vicinity and there’s no definition of immediate vicinity.”

Slusher suggested to him that he talk to the city’s attorney, who is Scott Reust. With no definition, Reust told Beam that the distance would be “what a reasonable person, or what the Traffic Commission thinks, would be the immediate vicinity.” Beam said the Commission could decide what the immediate vicinity is.

Traffic Administrator Lance Grubbs said people are walking from the housing additions, and the only housing additions are to the east of the school.

Warsaw Street Superintendent Dustin Dillon said he talked to his department’s sign technician and the school zone sign is currently just west of the entrance to Tippe River Downs. The sign would just need to be moved, which would be very feasible to do in a timely fashion, he said.

Robertson said WCS is looking at doing a pilot of the walk area after spring break, and would only be the neighborhoods on the south side of CR 300N. The south side is where the sidewalk is.

“That avoids having to cross anywhere except for up by the school where we have crossing infrastructure there as well,” Robertson said. “We haven’t made a final decision yet, but that’s what we’re investigating right now with our team.”

Anecdotally, he said, WCS is in general seeing more foot traffic along that pathway anyways. On weekends, people walk down to use the school facility “and things like that, so this might be a good move anyways for increased foot traffic,” Robertson said.

Beam said his recommendation for where the school zone should start was prior to the roundabout, but it could also be by Tippe Downs.

Robertson asked, “Do we move the signs to just west of the roundabout where traffic maybe is very slow coming out of that roundabout and it’s already slowed down? The original ask that we (WCS) had had was east of the roundabout, but I almost wonder if that you kind of forget about that  after you come out of there.”

He said the biggest thing for WCS is that they would like to see the traffic slow down before it gets to Tippe River Downs drive out on to CR 300N.

Dillon said his recommendation for the start of the school zone would be right west of the roundabout as people are coming out of it. He said that was because people could enter the roundabout from Sheldon Street and not see the school zone sign if it’s placed east of the roundabout. By putting the school zone sign and the speed limit (35 mph) sign just west of the roundabout, drivers are more likely to notice it as they continue west on CR 300N.

Robertson proposed the school zone sign be moved to just west of the roundabout and Dillon seconded the motion. It was unanimously approved by the Traffic Commission. With the expansion of the school zone, the speed limit along CR 300N from the west side of the roundabout west to Madison Elementary will reduce from 45 to 35 mph.

Next, with the new senior housing on East Market Street, across from David Fribley football field, the Commission discussed the potential for increased pedestrian traffic in the area. No action was taken, but the Commission decided to keep an eye on the area.

The last item on the Commission’s agenda came from Jill Blackwood, an active elder for the facilities at Warsaw Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 210 S. High St.

WEPC acquired the former City Hall at the intersection of High and Market streets and turned it into a parking lot.

“As you know, we do have an active preschool there as well, and that is where a lot of the buses come to bring special needs students,” she said. “But we also do have, on Sunday mornings, a lot of elderly people that cross there and they’re very concerned because some people come flying or whatever else. We just thought that if there was some way we could get a crossing zone in there because it could come straight across … and go into our front door so it wouldn’t have to be diagonal or anything. It could just come straight across.”

Commission members were concerned about having a mid-block crossing on High Street between Market and Jefferson streets, though they understood the “why” of the request.

Blackwood asked about signage telling drivers to slow down for children or a crossing. Robertson said the crossing should be at the intersection, but did think signs there would be beneficial. Grubbs told Blackwood maybe they could with WEPC on some kind of signage there.

The next Traffic Commission meeting is at 1 p.m. March 2 in the City Council chambers. There will be no April meeting because of spring break.